Little Lia

Sunday afternoon in New York. January 3nd, 1999. It's a cold day with snow drifts half-melted from the intermittent rain the night before, coating a large portion of the city in a thing glaze of ice that makes walking hazardous on any sidewalk that's not very well travelled. But when one stays away from the sidewalks and has shoes built for walking on just about any surface, you do okay.

Jaiden is in central park, looking over the expanse of the Great Hill - peaceful, with very few tracks through the snow. Where he stands overlooks one of the playgrounds, the metal and black rubber padding heating faster than the surrounding land, making it an oasis of dry, slightly less cold fun to be found in the middle of the city. A cup of coffee is in his hand, the man sipping it idly, watching the world go by. Amazing city when it's not a crater.

There are the squeals of playing children all over. The few parents that have brought them out in the cold are sitting on benches and chatting with each other while they keep an eye on their progeny. Each and every one of the kids are bundled up in heavy winter clothing, making their play a little slower than it would in the summer. There are a few tykes sliding down part of the hill and running back up. Others are playing a slow motion game of tag. Some are building a snowman.

"Lulu! Where are you?!" The angry voice of a little girl errupts through the noise of the others. "Moooooooooooooommmmyyyyyyyy!! Lulu's not letting me play!!" A little redhead with spiral curls springing out from under a blue wool hat with a giant white pompom on the top trudges straight toward Jaiden. Stomp stomp stomp. She stops, staring at his legs for a few seconds and then tilts her head all the way back to look waaaayyy up at him.

Her jaw drops in surprise, giving her a comical little expression that only children can manage. "You're a GIANT!!"

Jaiden's not gigantic by any means, but he can see how, being six feet plus, he'd tower over a girl of not more than ten or eleven. His attention is drawn by the little girl at his feet, the man tipping forward slightly to regard her more closely, his left hand moving up to tilt his hat back. "G'day, little girl." He says with a soft smile as he looks her over.

The formerly pristine hillside is now marred by the little stomping footsteps from the girl who made her way up to where he stands. "Did'ja lose someone?"

"Uhm…uhm…uhm…. I… uhm… " Not actually expecting to answer her back, the little redhead is left stammering. Drawing in a long sniffle, she raises one blue matching mitten and wipes her nose with it. "My sister's playing hide and seek and she won't let me play."

The little girl's face scrunches into an angry little scowl and she twists her entire torso, raising her arm to point at a gaggle of children in the distance. "See? They're all playing but they won't let me!" Sure enough, there's a little brunette girl who is dressed to match the redhead, except she's got pink wool on. She's screaming as she runs away from two other children, racing them to reach 'home base'.

The man's smile is warm as he crouches, taking another sip of his coffee, his hat pushed back all the way to reveal his face, smiling broadly, like it's the natural configuration of his expression. He has a little stubble from not shaving for a day or so, but looks comfortable in his coat and boots. Comfortable enough to converse with a 10 year old.

"Why won't they let you play? It doesn't seem like it's very nice of them to leave you out. Is that girl in the pink your sister?"
ORDER: It is now your pose.

"'Cause she's mean." The instant reply sounds like it's been voiced over a thousand times for a thousand different occasions. "She doesn't like me to play with her friends." The child's round face tilts to the side a little, the thick scarf around her neck hiding almost the entirety of her cheek. Then she leans forward enough to peek at what's inside the cup.

"Is that coffee? My grampa let me drink coffee once, it was dis-gus-ting. Then he put lots of milk and sugar into it and I dipped cake in. That was better." Her head bobs up and down as she nods, looking like a fairly convincing expert on everything caffeinated. Raising her hand again, she holds it out for him to shake (not the snotty mitten one). "My name is Lia, are you a policeman?"

Even if she held out the snotty mitten hand, Jaiden would have probably shook it anyway, as it was the polite thing to do. He reaches out with his gloved hand and shakes her hand lightly. "Lia, it's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Jaiden. And no, i'm not a police man. I travel around the world and write stories for a newspaper in Australia."

The cup is given a glance, lowered a little to keep Lia from balancing on her tiptoes to look into it. "It is coffee, and it's something that you have to grow to like. When you're small, like you, sweet things are the nicest, but when you get older, like me, sometimes you want something like coffee." Jaiden lets out a steaming breath, watching the kids play hide and seek for a moment. "May I ask you a question, Lia? Have you asked her if you can play with her, or have you just tried to join in without being invited. And if you do play, do you know the rules that they're playing by? Her being mean is a possibility, but I'm hoping it's something else."

"I write stories too. I wrote a story for school and it had a princess and a unicorn in it." Lia announces quite proudly as she gazes unflinchingly into Jaden's eyes. Her arms swing at her sides as she twists her torso to and fro as she speaks to him. She's rather obviously unable to keep still. "I got a shiny red star. Red stars are the best ones because they're the prettiest ones. The princess' name was Mary Sunshine and the unicorn's name was Mister Benjamin Featherbottom."

His explanation of the coffee and sweets has the little girl's lips pursing into a tight little knot and raising her chin in defiance. "I'm not little! I'm almost nine. That's almost ten! Do you know what I'm going to get when I'm ten? I'm going to get a horse! And I'm going to ride him far far far away so Lulu can't ride him and I'm going to make up all my own games that she can't play."

Ah, to be young with unlimited energy again. Jaiden chuckles and takes another sip of his coffee, the cup empty now, and stands. "Come on, let's go throw this away by the playground, and you can tell me all about your story. Did the princess live happily ever after?" He starts to walk toward the playground where all the kids play, pausing to make sure she's keepig up.

"I'm sorry, Lia. I didn't mean to make you angry. Let me ask you a question….are you the oldest, or is your sister?"

Delia's knees raise up in a militaristic march as she stomps back toward the playground. Unbeknown to the little girl, a rather statuesque middle aged woman has been watching her carefully the whole time. The little girl has a bit of trouble keeping up to the tall man but as she passes by her mother she gives a bright wave. "Hi Mommy!" Her bubbly little voice sounds a bit squeaky as she greets the woman eying the pair. "This is my new boyfriend Jaiden the Giant!!"

The redheaded woman simply raises her eyebrows and gives the man a considerably studious gaze until her eyes flit toward the child. Two steps and she begins to run toward the child. "Be careful Lia! Stop running near the merr— " But it's too late, the little girl has already fallen… and a long squeal begins the screaming cries as she runs to her mother. Her bloody nose drips down to her scarf, staining it.

He assumed that the child's mother wouldn't have spent the time dressing them both up in matching outfits and then decided that not watching them would be the best thing to do. "Hello Ma'am." Jaiden says with a respectful nod, tipping his hat even, before pulling it back on his head smartly. "I don't normally chat up ten year olds in snowy parks, but she just wandered up and started chatting so…" He trails off as Lia goes running and winces as she hits the ground. "Blimey….Here.." Jaiden reaches into the inside pocket of his coat for a white handkerchief which is offered to Delia's mother.

So far, he hasn't made the connection of exactly who this is.

"Thank you…" Mary says as she takes the handkerchief and stoops down to the level of the little girl. Her eyebrows are furrowed a little in worry as she gently wipes the blood and snot away from the screaming child's face. "Lia, Lia, sshhh shhh, it's okay. You're fine." A quick glance is shot over to the little group of children and she furrows her eyebrows as she spies the little brunette turning around and hitting another girl.

"Lucille Amelia Ryans! You tell her you're sorry, right now!" This causes the little redhead to stop crying immediately and turn to watch as her sister gets into trouble. The woman stands and takes a step toward the other girl who immediately turns to the other one and mutters something unintelligible. "Lucille!" Hunching her shoulders, the other little girl turns and actually hugs the other child quickly before letting go and running away.

"Mom, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom.." The curly haired redhead is tugging on her mother's coat, trying to garner her attention. Her tear stained face is now clear of forgotten tears as the little girl insistently pulls on the woman. "Mooooooooom! Can I go play with the Giant now?!"

Connection made. Jaiden's eyes widen slightly, but he manages not to cough, choke, or do anything that might give away the fact that, holy crap, he knows this girl! They slept on a couch together and watched horrible movies! He stands, though, and looks around for a bench or something to sit on, to watch the dichotomy between two sisters and Mary, a woman he knows in the future is now very much deceased.

He gives a look to Mary and shrugs. "I don't mind if you don't."

An uncertain glance is passed between the little redhead and the large man offering to be a playmate. As trusting as children can be, their parents are a lot more careful. "Stay near the merry-go-round and the bench. Do not wander away from there." There are no threats made as so what might happen if the child disobeys, simply 'the mom look'.

"Okay!" The tiny squeal of delight is let off from the springy haired child and she starts running toward the bench. "C'mon Jaiden the Giant!" While it normally wouldn't be a trial to get up on the bench, Lia's winter gear makes it almost impossible. She's forced to lay down on the bench and then crawl to a seated position.

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